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Sunday, January 16, 2011

NAMM 2011 Report Part 1

NAMM 2011 in Anaheim is now over, and unlike a great many previous shows, there were actually a few products that I would daresay are significant. I'm sure I missed a whole lot of cool new items, but these couple really caught my eye as something special.

Anyone who has ever dealt with drum samples knows that the cymbals are usually the weak link in the whole concept. If you're a drummer triggering samples, you know that the cymbals just don't react the way that real cymbals do, and if you're a composer programming drums, you have the same problem. A variety of the best drum libraries get close, but never really capture the essence and feel of the real thing.

So it was quite a surprise when Zildjian introduced their Gen16 line of cymbal models and controller. The fact that a 400 year old company (yes, 400 years) that was never considered electronically hip could disrupt their own business model certainly came out of the left field.

Gen16 looks like a cymbal and acts like a cymbal, but that's where the similarity ends. As you can see by the picture on the left, the unit is perforated and has a blue glow thanks for a ring of blue LEDs under the bell. The controller isn't meant to be tonally active, so it's made for strength rather than tone. Apparently even a heavy hitter like Kenny Aronoff can't break them.

How do they sound? Just glorious and everything you'd expect from the Zildjian. And they act like really cymbals too. You can play on the bell or on the side, or choke them and they act just like you'd expect.

I think the Gen16 cymbals are going to change the way drummers and engineers use cymbals, both live and in the studio. I don't think we even know how significant this is yet. Get more information on Gen16 here.

While the next item isn't as groundbreaking as the Gen16, it is significant in it's own small way, especially for the way we track in the studio. Peterson (the strobe tuner people) just came out with something called the Body Beat Pulsating Metronome which is an absolutely brilliant way of keeping time yet eliminating the click track.

With the Body Beat, you clip the vibration clip onto your belt or shirt (seen on the bottom of the picture on the left), and you can feel the beat instead of listening to it (although you can still listen to it as well if you want to). But what really makes this cool is the fact that you can sync a bunch of them together via BlueTooth, and have one that's a master that receives clock from Pro Tools or your favorite DAW via USB.

This is so cool for many reasons. For any player that hates playing to a click, or performs stiffly to a click, feeling the pulse of the song is a lot more natural. For doing string sessions, you can eliminate the headphone leakage by just letting the players feel the pulse instead. Maybe this will even work for drummers who need unbearable loud click in their phones too. One more thing - the units are on $129 retail.

This is one simple yet useful device that clearly falls under the heading of "Why didn't we think of this before?" Discover more about the Peterson Body Beat here.

Tomorrow, more of my observations from the 2011 NAMM show in Part 2.

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1 comment:

sculley said...

Love both of these products. The Body Beat reminds me of Sonic Youth's drummer, in that he uses a little thumper under his seat, that thumps his seat every time he hits the bass drum. Not the same thing of course, but the idea of physical body feedback/monitoring is there. Thanks.

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